Longform

Mel's Angels

Page 4 of 8

McLaws told county investigators, "I'd be willing to bet a month of lunches that [Ruet] used the phrase APE case when that was delivered to Jill . . . [Ruet] was very definitely letting us know that whatever we did on behalf of the department would be held under glass. There definitely was a difference between the person coming in to talk to us that afternoon than any other type of person that may be coming in on any other given case. That he definitely had clout and that our actions would definitely have implications."

McLaws specializes in burglary investigations, not sex crimes. Ruet told investigators he'd asked McLaws to assist Cross for one reason--his religion:

"McDonald is LDS. Randy is a Mormon, and I felt that that would avoid any criticism by having one LDS and one non-LDS investigator involved in it," Ruet said.

McDonald got to the Gilbert station minutes after his call.
He spent about two hours with the two detectives, much of it "bawling his eyes out," according to Cross' account. He seemed to be wearing two hats at once, Patty's relative and attorney.

Cross inferred that Patty's crimes were ancient history, not a few months old.

"I'm thinking, 'Well, five years have passed,'" she later told investigators, "a tenured detective [Phoenix's Ryberg] has handled this, [Patty's] been in counseling supposedly.' . . . So I just kind of left it at that."

The next day, April 6, according to Jill Cross' police report, she confirmed with CASA that Patty Lake was in counseling. She also tried unsuccessfully that day to contact Alicia Ryberg, but it didn't matter. By now she knew what was expected of her:

"I know [Ruet] wanted it turned in a timely manner--'We don't want this thing hanging over our heads, so let's move on it.' I'm sure it was like, 'Oh, my God, we got a hot potato here. Let's get this thing out of here. Let's clear it up and get it the hell out of here,'" Cross told county investigators.

With that in mind, on April 8, 1993--one week after Tim Brooks' call--Cross tossed the hot potato. Her summary report contained some curious turns of phrase.

"As a result of the interview," she wrote of the session with Mel McDonald, "Detective McLaws and I were able to clear up several unaddressed issues as well as to develop a chronological order of events . . .

"At this time, I do not feel that the incident as reported by [Tim Brooks] to Officer DeSpain needs to be handled as a criminal investigation. This particular incident was handled by Phoenix police, and I think it would be detrimental to [Patty's] therapy to reopen a matter that she believes to be criminally quashed by Phoenix police."

Deputy county attorney Dorothy Macias later asked Randy McLaws if he knew what Cross had meant by "unaddressed issues."

"No, I don't," he replied. "The whole thing pretty much was an unaddressed issue."

County attorney investigator Sue Lindley asked Joe Ruet about the term "criminally quashed."

Ruet: "I don't know what she meant by that."
Lindley: "I don't know that that's necessarily something that you find in Webster's cop dictionary."

Cross tried lamely to explain her irregular report during an October 1995 interview with Macias and Lindley.

"I'm thinking, how do you really close this out without ignoring something that hasn't been done? How do you politically correctly close this thing out and still sound intelligent yourself that you know what's going on, even if you're not really sure of everything, but that you felt good?"

Tim Brooks apparently didn't feel good about the response to his complaint.
"Initially, he presented in a much more positive light," his therapist, Adele Mayer, told Lindley last April. "This did not last long because this boy expected some action within a matter of weeks and nothing happened. So I think he felt even worse afterwards because he tried and nothing happened."

A Case Reborn
After Gilbert police closed the Patty Lake case in April 1993, it appeared Mel McDonald's magic had worked again.

But rumors of McDonald's fix swirled through the department, and they nagged at Gilbert Sergeant Todd Baty, who had had a dispute with McDonald in an earlier, unrelated case. (Baty, Gilbert PD's Officer of the Year for 1996, wouldn't comment for this story.)

In October 1994, McDonald wrote a letter to Gilbert police chief Fred Dees after the detention of a 13-year-old girl on suspicion of molesting two little boys.

In a letter to Dees, McDonald chided Gilbert detective Dave Williams--who reported to Baty--for collecting the girl at her school. (She later was acquitted.)

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin